Sunday, December 19, 2010
Below is a letter I sent to Senator McCain's office after his tantrum on the Senate floor.
Dear Senator McCain,
I watched your recent reaction to the repeal of DADT.
Let me assure you, I have served in the military. My brother and sister served in the military. My father and my uncle served in the military during WWII. My uncle was KIA on Iwo. I have his flag in my office.
My nephews and my niece are serving in the military. My brother-in-law is a graduate of the academy (64) and my wife's father was a young lieutenant in the 82nd, dropped into Normandy on June 6th. Her grandfather was a graduate of West Point and an aide to Omar Bradley.
We know what it's like to serve. We know what it's like to sacrifice.
And I am happy that the Senate stood up for the rights of individual Americans in repealing DADT.
As a former enlisted man and someone who had far fewer advantages than you, I found your comments about elitists versus real Americans unfortunate.
If an average Joe looked at you and me, I am not the one he would brand the elitist. A public high school in Pennsylvania and a degree from West Virginia University are hardly upper crust.
I respect and honor your service and I would have voted for you in 2000. It saddens me to see how bitter, and partisan, you've become.
I hope that you reclaim your legacy and continue to fight for nonpartisan progress.
US Army 1969-1971
Thursday, November 11, 2010
This year, I want to salute a new generation. This is Karin, Jenny's niece. She's a new recruit to the US Army. Last year she enlisted on the same day that her son, Little Jon, signed up.
She comes from a tradition of service. Her brother, Big Jon, is a blue steel warrior, a combat arms officer who it is my privilege to school at the pistol range every chance I get. Which isn't often enough.
Her older sister has served in the State Dept. for decades and her younger sister, Katherine, is studying to be a nurse.
Service to others. That's what Karin and her siblings represent and they carry on a family tradition that goes back to the Revolution. It's in their DNA and I am proud that they call me Uncle David.
So, on this Veteran's Day, I salute Karin, her sisters and her brother. Thanks, kids, for letting this old dogface be part of your family.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
A conservative group in Oklahoma, and that means that they don't wear brown shirts to work, but would if they could, thought they would celebrate the Constitution by asking a bunch of Oklahoma high school students to answer questions that every immigrant has to answer to become a US citizen.
And how did the little Sooners do? Only 2.8% passed. Yeah. As the kids say, epic fail. Turns out that OK students aren't so OK after all.
But the questions must have been tough, right? I'll let you decide. Can you answer these ten questions?
1. What is the supreme law of the land?
2. What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?
3. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?
4. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
5. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
6. What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?
7. What are the two major political parties in the U.S.?
8. We elect a U.S. senator for how many years?
9. Who was the first president of the United States?
10. Who is in charge of the executive branch?
"It's depressing," said Brandon Dutcher, vice president of the group who funded this little lesson in despair. "If these survey results are any indication, we are very much a nation at risk."
These were high school students. High school. And only 23% could name Washington as the first president. Jesus Christ, kids, he's on the fucking dollar bill.
The only question that a majority of these kids could answer was number 6. Yes, a whopping 61% of them could identify that giant body of water to the east.
Oh, and how do the immigrants do on this test? 92.7% of them pass.
And we wonder why tea baggers can't spell.
Thursday, November 04, 2010
At the risk of becoming that old man who claims that everything was better in the old days, because it wasn't, there is something significant that we've lost.
We used to have the courage to see beyond today. We used to believe that watching your neighbor suffer in hard times was like saying to him, "Your end of the boat is sinking."
We rebuilt our former enemies with the Marshall Plan, one of the most humane, smart, and foresighted government expenditures of tax money in this nation's history.
We educated an entire generation of men through the GI Bill, a spending of taxpayer money that came back to us seven-fold.
We financed the moon landings, Interstate highways and the Internet, all things that made us richer, smarter and more advanced than any nation in history.
We saw our grandparents in poverty and made Social Security a way for them to retire with some independence and dignity.
Today, our political zeitgeist is all about balancing the budget by cutting taxes and cutting spending. It resonates because it's simple and easy to put on a bumper sticker. But we know from experience that it doesn't work. Why? Because the problem is too complex to be solved by bumper sticker ideology.
The country I grew up in was one where every able-bodied male had an obligation to serve because, in my father's words, "that's the price you pay for living in a free country."
We used to be a place where people grudgingly paid taxes, in Ike's time up to 91%, because we all knew that better schools, a healthy workforce, and a sound infrastructure were the foundation of a strong economy.
When I was a kid, we heard people say, "no kid should go hungry in the richest nation on earth." We knew, without saying it, that one day those hungry kids would grow up to be angry adults. And besides, they were kids. It was the right thing to do.
We have, in the past 30 years, become a pinched and stingy society where people are scared that somewhere, someone is getting something for nothing. Higher education in California used to be free and the system was the envy of the world. Now, students graduate owing tens of thousands of dollars to bankers.
This is Republican progress, encouraged by people like the Tea Party movement, a political party that is part astroturf, funded by invisible billionaires like the Koch brothers and part willfully ignorant people who don't see that their Social Security checks and Medicare payments are the only things keeping them from a diet of ramen and dog food.
Seriously, I don't recognize my country any more. It's not the great nation it once was. I don't know whether I'm angry about this or just sad that our political engine has been hijacked by corporatist oligarchs who have duped enough people to keep them in power. Maybe it's both.
But I'm trying to let politics go. I'm trying to listen to more music, spend more time with my wife and friends, and most of all, turn off that fucking TV.
The tea partiers wanted to take their country back. Great. Here it is, ladies and gentlemen. Let's see what you do with the responsibility of governance.
But first, you might want to work harder on your spelling.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
As a regular reader of that blog, I was sorry to see them go, but I understood. Time is tight. Focus is important if you're going to run the marathon of writing a novel. A good novel, anyway.
For 4 years I've put up a post nearly every day. I've enjoyed the hell out of this. I hope you have too.
But lately I've wondered if I shouldn't be putting this time and energy into my next book. It's almost finished and I think, with some serious attention, I could be done by early summer.
So I'm taking a break. It may be a long break. I hope not. I hope I'll be back in April or May with news that I've finished this book. Wish me luck.
I'll miss all of you. OK, most of you. And you can always drop me a line. I answer e-mails, even the ones from people who wish to punch me in the face.
Which is most of you.
Good luck and I'll be back.
PS. I wanted to end with one of my favorite pictures. To me, it is the spirit of the novelist. Persistence in action.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Sure, it means we'll probably never have health insurance reform meaning millions more people will go bankrupt and more insurance company CEOs will get rich and fucktwats like Joe Lieberman will get more wrinkly facetime on TV.
Monday, January 18, 2010
(And if you haven't read Ed Gorman's comment on Limbaugh's place in our great circle of life, we'll wait while you do. Goddam the man can write.)
I don't take any great pleasure in pointing out the moral failings of prominent people. OK, I do. But Robertson and Limbaugh, like all good villains, have convinced themselves that what they're doing is right.
Horrifying, I know, but it's the truth.
Today, I'm more concerned with, in the words of Elvis Costello, the damage that we do and never know. The unintentional fuck-ups you make unless you renounce society and live a hermit's existence in some God forsaken spot like Tulsa.
This past weekend, I was made aware that I hurt people I cared about and what's worse, I was oblivious.
The first came from 42 years ago.
Kingsley Amis famously said that having a male libido is like being "chained to an idiot." And Jesus, my idiot was strong.
I knew a girl in high school who was young and eager to be popular. She was at a party. My party and, as the host was an idiot, there was probably a lot of bad behavior. I honestly don't recall.
But this young girl was treated shabbily by one of the other idiots at the party. Not criminal, but stupid and inconsiderate. And the hurt and shame she felt that day in my house, at my party, has stuck with her for 4 decades. This past weekend she asked me about it, if I remembered that party and what had happened.
I'm ashamed to say I don't remember. I don't even recall having the party. But I was her host, and I cared for her, and I was too stupid to notice that she had been humiliated and hurt.
I apologized. She said it wasn't necessary but I disagree.
The second example of my personal jerkish behavior happened more recently and came from a friend I'd broken with last year. The break was unpleasant and unnecessary. In an e-mail, my friend catalogued all the ways I'd let him down and disappointed him. Some of it was justified. But most of his anger was caused by assumptions, slights and a massive amount of bad communication.
So, as I see how I can wander through people's lives like Godzilla wanders through downtown Tokyo, it reminds me to take the slights and cruelty of others with more patience and forgiveness.
Except for guys like Robertson and Limbaugh. Those guys are just evil fucks.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Yesterday, in posting links to Haiti relief, I made a silly joke about God having a mean streak when everybody knows He's bipolar.
But Pat Robertson is not joking. This scion of wealth and privilege knows for sure, without any trace of doubt, that his kind and merciful God put out a hit on the poorest people in our hemisphere because 200 years ago, a few superstitious slaves supposedly made a deal with the devil.
Which Pat understands because that's how he got his TV show.
And people actually send this man money. This man who smuggles blood diamonds. This man who thinks women who want equal opportunities are practicing witchcraft. This man who believes that Christians in today's America face persecution "...more terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history."
Holy fuck. That's a lot of suffering.
But Pat, as seriously fucking deluded as he is, as twisted and perverse, as evil and cruel as he shows himself to be with every disaster, from 9/11 to Katrina and now to Haiti, is still holding the coat of the main toad in this loathsome display - Rush Limbaugh.
You know when Rush had chest pains over the holidays and the doctors said it wasn't a heart attack? That's because they couldn't find a heart.
I bring up these two awful people because I find that I'm still capable of being surprised by how despicable some people can be, and that's reassuring. Apparently, I'm not quite the cynic I sometimes think I am.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Thanks, Big Guy.
Here's what you can do:
If you need information about family members in Haiti, the State Department has set up this number to call - (888) 407-4747.
If you want to donate, here are just a few places working in Haiti:
The American Red Cross International Response Fund.
Yele, set up by Wyclef Jean, a native Haitian.
And here are Six More Ways You Can Help.
MSNBC has a list, too.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
“This was — this was an attack that didn’t succeed on the scale it was expected to but did succeed,” said Brit Hume on Fox News.
Really? The Underpants Bomber's attack succeeded in what, exactly? Giving you more faux outrage for a few news cycles?
Or maybe Brit Hume is secretly a member of al Qaeda.
No, I don't believe Brit has the stones to set his crotch on fire, not even for Jesus.
But the right certainly has its asbestos panties in a bunch. They're so skeert that a whole bunch of them have suffered from simultaneous brain damage that's erased great swaths of recent history from their crania.
Haley Barbour, former chairman of the RNC told Fox News that when it came to terrorist attacks, George W. Bush “...had a 100 percent perfect track record.”
But the Mississippi Governor isn't alone. A whole chorus line of people on the right have stepped up to to demonstrate that GOP dishonesty isn't just a surface thing, but goes bone deep.
Here's Mr. Mayor, Rudy Giuliani: “...after September 11, not one time did the terrorists who are trying to kill us and end our way of life, not one time were they able to attack the mainland United States. We had no domestic attacks under Bush.”
Rudy, are you sure? Does anthrax ring a bell? What about the DC Sniper? Or maybe you've forgotten about Jim David Adkisson, the right wing terrorist who shot up a church in Tennessee because he hated Democrats, liberals, African Americans and homosexuals. Oh, I can see why you'd want to forget that.
Or maybe Rudy believed Dana Perino, former Bush press secretary, when she said, "...we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term."
Huh. I seem to recall something in the Fall of 2001. What was that?
Then we have Mary Matalin, quite possibly the most casual dissembler on TV, saying, "...we inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation’s history. And President Bush dealt with it..."
Oh, yeah, he dealt with it. Just as soon as he changed his big boy pull-ups.
But see what she did there? 9/11 wasn't Bush's fault. He inherited it. Just like he got everything else in life.
Finally, we have this from Liz and Dick Cheney's new think tank, Keep America Safe.
So the Fruit of Kaboom! Bomber sets his nads aflame on Christmas day, a Friday, and Obama makes his statement the following Monday.
OMG! He waited a whole weekend! We're all going to die!
Except we're not.
Why would leaders and spokespeople for the Republican party say such demonstrably false things? Are they really that stupid?
Or do they think we're that stupid?
If you ever needed evidence of the answer before, you certainly have it now.
Monday, January 11, 2010
A man with the readymade porn name of Jonah Falcon is out of work and living with his mom. But that's not what makes Jonah newsworthy.
The reason Jonah is in the news is because Jonah holds the record for being endowed with the world's biggest dick.
He, himself, is not the world's biggest dick. That honor is shared by Dick Cheney and his daughter, Liz.
But big dicks apparently won't get your resume to stand out. Or up.
I'll let you insert your own dick jokes. I have to get back to work before I lose my job, too.
Friday, January 08, 2010
Some dismal employment numbers came in last week with the country shedding 85,000 more jobs. This makes the Reuters report on the best and worst jobs for 2010 almost beside the point. Even a crap job is better than no job at all.
If you haven't seen it, here's an abbreviated list of the best and worst:
1. Actuary - Yes, it pays well. No, there's no heaving lifting. Still, sitting at a desk all day juggling numbers would make my head explode. Best job? Not for me.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
According to this, a US Marine officer complained about the public state of undress of Australian women, bringing scorn and shame to centuries of USMC tradition.
Yes, I know officers in general can be a priggish lot. I had a colonel ask me why the men in the barracks drank so much. When I asked if he'd never imbibed just to get drunk he said no, he hadn't, leaving me temporarily speechless.
But I'm having a hard time believing any Marine would write this to the editor of the local Oz paper:
"It's about having standards, ladies," wrote an obvious charlatan claiming to be a Captain John Campbell. "What are standards? Well, it can begin by dressing in a manner that leaves something to the imagination, to say the least."
Australians, as you might imagine, had a few suggestions for Captain Campbell.
Lana Sandic, 19, said, "Most Territory girls would say put it where the sun doesn't shine."
Another Aussie wrote it off as "Another bloody American trying to educate the world" and suggested "Mate, look at your women in the US - Rosanne to Britney. At least we have a bar to raise."
Another wrote: "Leave your opinions in the USA. PS: You didn't vote for Bush by chance?"
But there is evidence that this is either a hoax or the letter writer, like our own commenter Anonymous Al, did not have the balls to use his real name.
The US consulate says they couldn't find a serving Marine with that name in Australia, and the paper confirmed they had been unable to contact Captain Campbell.
The paper, the Northern Territory News, has linked to an online portfolio of Australian girls called "Beautiful Territory" and requests your response. Do you side with Captain Campbell and the Taliban or do you take a more enlightened and libertarian view?
Take a look and let them know. After all, our national manhood, the reputation of the Corps, and good relations with an ally are at stake.
This isn't just your Constitutional right, gentlemen, it's your patriotic duty.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Naked Yoga was published in 1972 and I'm sure the book was snatched up by crabbed old men, their minds as narrow as their fifties tie but their libidos secretly and shamefully lusting after our loose-limbed, frizzy-haired young yoga-meister.
But I'm equally as certain that an earnest young woman also picked up the book and, alone in her small apartment, twisted her naked body into these shapes in hopes of achieving some low budget nirvana that would help her endure the hours of tedium in her office job at the plumbing supply company.
I know many of you aren't old enough to remember the 70's except as kids. Believe me, things were different. In certain circles, nudity was just part of being young and healthy. Sometimes it had to do with sex, but other times, like skinny-dipping, it was just a literal shedding of old, stifling constraints.
My how times have changed.
Today, we have yoga accessory sites complete with a Prana Papaya Cleanser for $36, Yoga sox for $15, a Yoga mat for $75 and a Meditation Kit, which comes with two cushions for your enlightened ass, for only $63, (normally $103). And don't forget your Yoga Fashions. Otherwise your enlightened ass might be naked and free.
And in 2010, that's just not acceptable.
*What do you want to bet that Brit Hume knows as much about Buddhism as my dogs know about physics?
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
OREILLY: Do you believe that you are smart enough, incisive enough, intellectual enough to handle the most powerful job in the world?
PALIN: I believe that I am because I have common sense. And I have, I believe, the values that are reflective of so many other American values. And I believe that what Americans are seeking is not the elitism, the kind of a spinelessness that perhaps is made up for that with some kind of elite Ivy League education and a fact resume that's based on anything but hard work and private sector, free enterprise principles. Americans could be seeking something like that in positive change in their leadership. I'm not saying that has to be me.
And I believe that what Americans are seeking is not the elitism, the kind of a spinelessness that perhaps is made up for that with some kind of elite Ivy League education and a fact resume that's based on anything but hard work and private sector, free enterprise principles.
"My guttural instinct kind is kind of like a mama grizzly bear. You touching my cubs, you're touching my kids."
Now you know this kid's going to grow up to be a well-rounded citizen. From Chattanooga comes a Christmas story about a 4-year-old boy, beer in hand, wearing a dress, caught stealing presents from the neighbors.
Jesus, I have a reputation as a partier, especially in my salad days, but I never did anything on this kid's skill level.
But then, I had no role model. Not like little Hayden Wright.
His mother, April, told reporters that Hayden just "followed his father's footsteps."
"He wants to get in trouble," Mom said, "so he can go to jail because that's where his daddy is."
Aw. So it really is a family Christmas special after all.
Hayden made his getaway while Mom was asleep. He then broke into a neighbor's house and stole Christmas presents, including a girl's brown dress that Hayden was wearing when police cuffed him.
"Going to the neighbor's house and taking their presents, very embarrassing," said Obvious Mom.
A spokeman for Child Protective Services said that April will get to keep Hayden because, "Other than the dress, this shit happens all the time in Tennessee."
These are books that have stood out in the last year. OK, maybe not so much the last year as the last six months. I'm going by memory here, people and I'm old. So cut me some slack.
The top one is by my friend, Ray Banks. Ray's written a fine series with this as the final installment for Cal Innes. If you don't know Ray's work, pick up a copy. I found Sucker Punch (Donkey Punch in the UK) in my local independent and made sure to turn it face out. It's the least I can do for a pal.
I'm late to the Charlie Huston fan club, but goddamn this stuff is good. These are the first two novels in a 3 novel series featuring Hank Thompson, an alcholic ex-jock who takes care of a neighbor's cat and that, as Frost says, made all the difference.
I just started the third in the series, A Dangerous Man, today. I have other Huston novels in my TBR stack and they've just moved closer to the front of the line.
Here's another one who's been around for a while that I somehow missed until this year. This is David Fulmer's series that kicks ass for historical fiction. If you love American music, murder, corruption in high places and sporting girls, Mr. Fulmer will make you believe he lived the life. Great stuff.
There's only one other writer who I know who does historical fiction better. And that's Patrick O'Brian.
I'm working my way through his 20 book series, reading one or two a year, making them last until I read the final paragraph of the final novel on my deathbed. They're that good.
It also takes me longer to read one of O'Brian's novels because I sit with the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea so I can look up sailing terms I don't know, which is pretty much all of them. Yes, I do have a geek streak in me.
Lady spies of WWII. Part of my research, and still a great read. Did you know that Julia Child was a woman of the OSS? Indeed.
More research. One day I will finish researching this novel and actually write the goddamn thing.
The true story of 234 Marines holding off repeated attacks by two Chinese divisions in weather so cold the grease on their machine guns froze. Fuck.
Finally, the story of how we installed the Shah of Iran and sowed the seeds for the subsequent overthrow in 1979 and all the shit that followed. For much of the last half of the last century, America supported some very corrupt men in our effort to contain communism. 9/11 was part of the blowback.
I know there were plenty of other books I read in the early months of 2009 that I've forgotten here. But this isn't a bad list.
What did you read that's stuck with you?
Monday, January 04, 2010
That's every movie I've seen in the first few days of 2010.
Believe it or not, there were two we had planned to see that we didn't get to - Sherlock Holmes and the Fantastic Mr. Fox. We'll see at least one of those next weekend.
Up in the Air - George Clooney is amazing. Critics have rightfully praised this movie about a man who is detached from everything, including the ground. Jason Reitman directed and wrote, with Sheldon Turner, from a novel by Walter Kirn. Damn, this is great.
The Hangover - I don't think I want to know anyone who doesn't find this movie funny. I love Zach Galifianakis.
500 Days of Summer - I'm not a big fan of romantic comedies. This one was good. With Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Brick) and Zooey Deschanel, this had enough quirk and intelligence to make me happy.
Avatar 3D - I mention the 3D because I wouldn't have seen it otherwise. I hadn't seen a 3-D movie since the 50's and wanted to see how far the technology had come. Meh. It didn't put me to sleep, but the story is Dances With Wolves except this time the Indians win.
The CGI, with its cutting-edge motion capture, is supposed to be the biggest leap forward in filmmaking technology since Star Wars, but to me it just looked like animation. Good animation, but still. I liked Up better.
James Cameron is the socially-acceptable Michael Bay. He's the director you'd be OK taking home to mom.
How We Get By - This snuck up on me. It's a little film with huge heart. The filmmakers spend time with these three people who have dedicated themselves to being at the Bangor, Maine airport when troop planes come in or leave for Iraq and Afghanistan. If you don't choke up, you're not human.
Triad Election - A Hong Kong crime flick about choosing a new boss. Like Florida in 2000, things don't go well.
The Unforgiven - Yeah, I've seen it about 100 times already. What's your point? One of the best westerns ever made.
Right at Your Door - A small movie about terrorists blowing up a dirty bomb in downtown LA. Most of the film is shot inside a small, sealed in house, making much of it feel like it could have been a play. Not bad.
The Thin Man - Yeah, I've seen it about 100 times already. What's your point?
Red River - This was directed by Howard Hawks and like his contempoary, John Ford, Hawks shoots big men doing big things against a big sky. This is all about a river of beef being driven by men who haven't had a bath in a while. Joanne Dru, not a strong actress, is given no help by a truly dreadful romantic subplot with Montgomery Clift who probably wasn't much help in the sexual chemistry department, either.
John Wayne plays almost as much of a social misfit here as he is in Ford's masterpiece, The Searchers.
It's a Gift - Finally, late last night I watched W.C. Fields in one of my favorites. If Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm could trace his lineage, it would reach back to Fields who, throughout this movie, battles gamely with the world's women and children.
There it is, 12 movies in 2010. No wonder our house is such a wreck.
What about you? See anything good lately?